Please note, this column contains spoilers for everything up to and including Hellboy in Hell: The Three Gold Whips and Hellboy: The Coffin Man.
STRIKING OUT ALONE
This story kicks off on Hellboy’s last night in Africa, when he came to Mohlomi, a witchdoctor that was supposed to have died two hundred years earlier. Mohlomi claimed to have known for a long time that Hellboy would come to see him, though in the end Hellboy was three days late after he’d pissed of the ghost Kinyamkela by eating from his banana tree.
That night, while Hellboy slept, he was confronted by African spirits, a pride of lions, that told him this was his last night sleeping underneath the skies of Africa, and that they would give him scars to remember. However, as they closed in, a figure very like Mohlomi appeared, only masked and accompanied by the sound of a ringing bell.
The pair went down the water’s edge where the ocean was calling to Hellboy… and then a great wave rose up and claimed him. He was immediately set upon by three mermaids that drove a nail into his head. In the struggle, Mohlomi’s bell was lost.
The three mermaids brought Hellboy to the lair of the sea witch, the Bog Roosh. She bound him in chains wrought from the bones of Emile Bertrand, a werewolf Hellboy had killed years ago. These chains could not be broken, and tightened when Hellboy struggled. Such was the power of the dead werewolf over his murderer.
From the etherworld, Sir Edward Grey, Dagda, and a host of fairy folk watched Hellboy’s plight. Dagda wished he could help Hellboy, but he was beyond the reach of Heaven or Earth. This enraged Gruagach the changeling. His encounter with Hellboy in the 1950s had left him burned by iron and trapped in the shrunken body of Grom the war pig. He had seen the fairies fading from the world, and thought the Bog Roosh had the right idea. After all, when the world ended, they would too. The new world after Ragna Rok would have no place for them.
Meanwhile, one of the mermaids that had captured Hellboy had seen the spirit of her father. He had scolded her for condemning someone to the clutches of the Bog Roosh when they had done her no wrong. Ashamed of what she had done, the mermaid returned to atone for the wrong she had done to Hellboy and freed him from his chains. Once free, Hellboy went into a murderous rage, turning on all the creatures that served the Bog Roosh, hacking them to bits.Continued below
Unknown to Hellboy, the Bog Roosh watched him from the shadows. Knowing she didn’t have the power to defeat him and not wishing to see her visions come true, she flung herself onto Hellboy’s blade, killing herself. With the Bog Roosh dead, the jars of the chamber opened, and the souls, in the form of seabirds, flew up out of the ocean and away into the sky.
But there must always be a Bog Roosh, and that curse fell upon the mermaid that had saved Hellboy. She would never be able to leave the Bog Roosh’s home, but with her new powers she was at least able to set Hellboy free, pulling the nail from his head, which could only be removed by the Bog Roosh.
Hellboy drifted around the ocean for over two years before he washed up on the shore of a mysterious island off the coast of Portugal. That evening he found shelter in the wreck of an old ship with three other men. He told them stories and drank and they all sang together until Hellboy was roused by a noise from outside. When he looked back at his companions, he saw only the corpses of sailors long dead.
Of course, Hellboy turned her down.
On further explorations of the island Hellboy found a castle with golden blood running down from its steps. He ignored his better judgement and decided to check it out. To say this did not go well is a bit of an understatement. His disturbing the pool of blood woke up Urgo-Hem and got him killed.
Hellboy found himself standing beside Mohlomi in an unearthly landscape. Mohlomi simply asked him if he was ready for it to be over. “Not yet,” replied Hellboy. Then Mohlomi returned to Hellboy the bell he had lost in the ocean.
He was later rescued and brought to the mysterious island and kept in the castle there, but eventually the Inquisition found him again. They murdered him, but from his wounds issued golden blood, and just as Sadu-Hem had been reborn from the blood of his worshippers in the Hyperborean capital of Gorinium, Urgo-Hem was reborn from the Ogdru priest’s.
But he couldn’t hurt the priest while he was woven from Hellboy’s blood. The priest dismissed him as a mere nuisance and left him to fight Urgo-Hem. Dumb move. Urgo-Hem was not yet a fully formed Ogdru Hem. It had only drawn its power from the blood of the murdered Ogdru priest and the Spanish Inquisition on the island. And while it was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, it could be killed.
With Urgo-Hem gone, the Ogdru priest was returned to death and left to answer to the ghosts of the Inquisition. Afterwards Hellboy found a tiny boat and set sail for England.
This story was a major turning point for Hellboy, and after it he had a better understanding of himself than ever before. But that understanding was not something he wanted.
For a long time whenever Hellboy had been faced with an uncomfortable truth, he tended to deal with it a certain way…
For a long while, Hellboy spent his days playing cards and drinking with ghosts until he was stirred from his reverie by a call; a voice he wasn’t even conscious of. Hellboy had no way of knowing it, but the witches of England had collected the horns he had broken off in the final pages of Wake the Devil. One they kept, the other they had carved into figure of Hellboy that they whispered to.
At once they were set upon by the cursed remains of Henry Hood, shouting that he shall not allow a witch to live, and he struck out at Hellboy, declaring that there was witch’s blood in him. The three newly resurrected witches grabbed Hellboy, their “cousin,” and swept him up away into the night sky, leaving Henry Hood behind.
The night was full of witches and their familiars, all flying to the Witch’s Sabbath at Leeds, a gathering like none seen before in the history of the world, and all for Hellboy. He was brought to an abandoned church full of witches, where they told him how their queen, Hecate, triple goddess, had been robbed of her power and bricked up in a wall until the end of the world. The person responsible for this was Igor Bromhead, the same man that had nearly killed Hellboy in Box Full of Evil when he unleashed the demon Ualac on him.
Perhaps it was because they had reminded him of so many things about himself that he’d been drinking to ignore, but Hellboy was fierce in his refusal. While the witches would have let him leave and have peace between them, Hellboy told them to finish their gathering or he would start shooting them and burn down their church. The witches warned him to be careful or he would incite war among them, but Hellboy didn’t care. Here again we see Hellboy so very willing to kill creatures that remind him of what he is.Continued below
In desperation, the witches gave Hellboy to the Baba Yaga to deal with. When Hellboy stepped outside of the church, he found himself in the Thrice-Nine Lands in the Thrice Tenth Kingdom, the Baba Yaga’s mythical Russia where she had lived since she faded from the world after Hellboy shot out her left eye. And she was still pissed about that, so she sent an army of dead warriors after Hellboy to claim his left eye as her own.
Hellboy fled into a wood from which wolves emerged and attacked the army of his heels. The wolves were sent by the Leshii, a forest spirit that delighted in spiting the Baba Yaga. He allowed Hellboy to stay one night in his wood, and while Hellboy slept he called upon the god Perun, father of the world, to aid him in keeping the Baba Yaga’s armies from breaching his territory.
It didn’t take long for Koshchei to find Hellboy. Koshchei had been made to do many horrible things in his deathless life, but if was able to at least bring the Baba Yaga Hellboy’s eye, then he would finally be allowed to die, so he fought holding nothing back. However, Hellboy was aided by a little girl, Vasilisa, bearing a stolen skull lantern from the Baba Yaga’s house.
Yet Hellboy still fought, while Koshchei begged him to die so that he could know death himself. The Baba Yaga emptied everything she had in Koshchei, to the point that all her lanterns around her chicken-leg house went out. When at last her power was finally gone, the goat ran away, and the Baba Yaga finally understood that the eye she wanted could not be taken. It had to be given.
When Hellboy returned to the world, he sought out Igor Bromhead in Italy. Igor had transformed himself into a monster in constant pain and begged for his death. Hellboy gave it to him, and in his last moments, as Bromhead’s soul was pulled away to Hell, he said he saw Hellboy in Hell, seated on a dragon at the head of an army.
The Wild Hunt
In a dream Hellboy visited the funeral of the murdered Dagda, last king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. With his death, the last of his people would pass in the shadows beneath the world. Also at the funeral Hellboy saw a familiar face, though he hadn’t seen it in over forty years, that of Alice Monaghan.
When he woke, he was given a letter by the Capobianco sisters from the Osiris Club, the people that had sent him to fight Saint Leonard’s Worm in the 1954. Hellboy met with them in England, noting they hadn’t aged a day since last he’d seen them. The Osiris Club wanted Hellboy to partake in the Wild Hunt, which was organised to hunt giants that had risen from their graves (there have been no living giants known to humanity since 1402). In the past gangs of giants had swelled to groups as big as four, but on this occasion their number was six, and the rising of giants had become more frequent.Continued below
While unconscious, Hellboy had a vision. He was surrounded by knights, standing still and covered with dust and cobwebs. In the centre of the room was a skeleton in chainmail with a crown upon its head, and empty scabbard between its knees, and the banner of a red dragon upon its breast.
Hellboy woke up to find a small bird talking to him. It told him that the members of the Wild Hunt were dead, killed by a gang of giants that were still nearby. Thanks to a gift from the bird’s mistress, Hellboy was invisible, and was able to sneak away unnoticed… except Hellboy didn’t want to slip by unnoticed. With the bird whispering protests at his side, Hellboy moved towards the giants, walking amongst them. When they caught his scent, Hellboy should have left, but instead…
Taking a broken shard of a giant’s sword, Hellboy threw himself into battle, killing each and every one of them, hacking them into bits. He crouched atop their corpses, his horns grown back, lost in his own of blood and fire, until he was stirred back to himself, shocked at what had he had done.
Afterwards he followed the bird and came to the home of Alice Monaghan, the woman he had saved as an infant in 1959, and had seen at Dagda’s funeral. She told Hellboy how she had grown up talking to fairies and had spent a great deal of her time with them. Like Hellboy, she couldn’t tell the difference between the realm of the fairies and dreams anymore.
Alice took Hellboy to a hilltop to meet Queen Mab. She told Hellboy that Graugach the changeling had long nursed a grudge against Hellboy, and in time it came to fester as a hatred of all humankind. When Hellboy had turned down being king of the witches, Graugach had come to them, suggesting Nimue as their new queen.
In desperation, the witches agreed to Graugach’s suggestion so that they might build and army and fight back against the world of humanity. When Nimue returned, she was not satisfied to simply be the queen of the witches; she named herself the Queen of Blood, a goddess of war, bent on spilling all blood.
When Mab left, Hellboy found a creature offering his services, calling himself Edmund, Duke of Gloucester. Hellboy and Alice followed “Edmund” as he led them out of their world and into the fairy realm. As they walked, Edmund asked Hellboy how Black Annis was, knowing that Hellboy had killed her in 1962. Hellboy pointed out she was a cannibal hag that ate children and hung their skins on an oak tree, but Edmund lamented the spilling of her golden blood… and then Black Annis’s children ambushed them.Continued below
During the attack, Alice was struck by a poisoned elf shot, and Edmund gleefully proclaimed she was dead. He was cut short in his celebrations by the arrival of three white birds. They killed Edmund, and Black Annis’s children fled. The birds changed into three women in white. They told Hellboy their lady could save Alice, but first he had to help their lady.
Knowing every moment counted, Hellboy hastily agreed to help and threw himself into battle with Eligos. However, Eligos was far too strong for Hellboy. He was utterly powerless against him. So Hellboy made a deal with one of the minion demons, that on the day Hellboy would come into his Kingdom in Hell, he would remember the demon. In return, the demon pointed out Eligos’s ring, of the Order of the Fly, which connected him to his powers in Hell. Once the ring was broken, Hellboy easily defeated him.
Inside the castle, Alice was healed, and their mysterious host was revealed: Morgan le Fay, half-sister of King Arthur Pendragon. She had orchestrated the attack by Black Annis’s children so that Hellboy would be forced to come to her. While they talked, she offered Hellboy wine, but he turned it down. No longer would he bury his head in the sand.
Morgan le Fay spoke of her son, Mordred, who by Morgan’s trickery had been born King Arthur’s son, and how he had tried to steal his father’s throne. The two met in the Battle of Camlan where they killed each other, and it was believed this was where the line of Pendragon ended. But Mordred had three sons, bastards born to the witch Kathryn of Gilfach. King Arthur’s Knights had tracked down these boys and put them to death.
Morgan le Fay led Hellboy to a small pond with a stone in its centre. Sticking out from the stone was the sword Excalibur. Morgan le Fay told Hellboy he could draw that sword and the noble dead of Britain would rise. He would have an army to fight against the Queen of Blood. And it was true, Hellboy had always felt it more natural to hold a sword than a gun.
Hellboy didn’t say why, but Alice knew there was something worrying him, so she told him about a dream she had had, standing in a cave, surrounded by knights covered with dust and cobwebs. In the centre of the room, in a shaft of light, stood King Arthur in chainmail and the banner of the red dragon upon his breast. He told her that her life was bound to his sword and that she would be the first to see the new king with his crown.
Hellboy fled from Astaroth, and fought with a vision of himself clad in his father’s armour and wielding his father’s sword. The vision demanded he take up the sword, and that the rest would follow in its own time. As they fought, fire flooded out from them, filling the halls of Morgan le Fay’s castle. Then the vision passed, and Hellboy stood alone in the charred hall.
He returned to Alice’s room where he found her burned skeleton. Again Vasilisa appeared by Alice’s bedside. She asked him why he hadn’t taken up Excalibur, and Hellboy told her how he was afraid of what he had become swinging a broken sword shard, and with Excalibur it would be so much worse.
In the darkness beyond Alice’s bedside, the pool appeared before Hellboy with Excalibur in its stone. Across various realms, Queen Mab, Sir Edward Grey, Mohlomi, the Baba Yaga, the witches of Britain, and others all watched as Hellboy stepped forward and drew the sword from the stone.
Then it was morning and Hellboy stood on the hill where he had spoken to Queen Mab. In his left hand he held Excalibur, and by his side, alive and well, was Alice (although her memory was a little patchy). And so the pair of them set off to wake the noble dead of Britain, and wondering how the hell they were supposed to do it.
The Storm and the Fury
The noble dead of Britain were doing a pretty good job of waking all on their own though. All over the country, knights were disappearing from their graves. But where were they going to? Hellboy and Alice had no idea where to find them.
Meanwhile, the Queen of Blood had been busy. She had found and slain Mab, the last queen of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, the fairies of Ireland. With Mab’s golden blood she painted a hedgehog and made him into a warrior to kill Hellboy. And the hedgehog very nearly succeeded, for Hellboy charged into battle without his sword. But Alice threw Excalibur to him, and the battle was turned. A wound that once would have been mortal was easily dismissed, and the hedgehog warrior was cut down swiftly.
When Hellboy went to pick up his sword, thrown aside during his killing strike, he and Alice found a public house that hadn’t been there before, its sign bearing the image of a grail. The pair took shelter inside as the sky broke into pouring rain. Alice relaxed with some beers, while Hellboy had a cup of tea (still not drinking), and outside in the rain the noble dead of Britain gathered… and waited.
Out in the storm he found Gruagach, hanging from a tree after his failed attempt at suicide. He begged Hellboy for forgiveness and to kill him, but even after Hellboy unloaded the last of his bullets into him, Gruagach still lived, cursed to see the end of the world he had set in motion.
When Astaroth was gone, Hellboy was approached by one more person, the Baba Yaga. She offered Hellboy a way past Nimue’s army if he would pay the debt he owed her. She wanted two eyes to see the end. Hellboy agreed.
But when he got to the top, it was not Nimue that was waiting for him. All those years ago, when Rasputin had used Liz to shake the Ogdru Jahad in its prison, he had succeeded in creating a crack. It was not enough for them to break free, but it was enough for them to channel a small part of themselves into Nimue, changing her into a black dragon.
And so Hellboy, the Champion of Man, battled the Dragon, while below, on the plains of Vigrid, the noble dead of Britain fought against the Queen of Blood’s army with War riding at its head, followed by Pestilence and Famine, and lastly, Death.
Alice found Hellboy at the top of the tower, the last time she would lay eyes on him, for as he turned to face her, the spirit of Nimue manifested. She reached into Hellboy’s chest and tore out his heart, taking it with her as she was dragged down into Hell.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Hellboy found himself in the darkness of the Abyss, the outer edge of Hell. There he found a robed and masked man, Sir Edward Grey, and Eligos, the demon he had defeated at the gates of Morgan le Fay’s castle. Eligos lost everything after Hellboy defeated him and he wanted revenge, but Sir Edward Grey would not let him have it. He intervened, casting Hellboy out until Eligos was dealt with.
In the meantime Hellboy wandered until he found a spirit that showed him to Pandemonium, the capital of Hell, abandoned and empty. All the demons had fled upon hearing of Hellboy’s return. In the Citadel of the Fly, once the beating heart of the city, Hellboy found his father’s throne, and waiting for him on it, the Crown of the Apocalypse, his father’s broken sword, and his ring of office.
Then Hellboy was visited by a second spirit. He was taken to the Cocytus river, full of the common damned. There he saw the Fisher of Souls, one of the first Watchers that had made the Ogdru Jahad. It was by his strength that the city of Pandemonium was build, and since then he had worked tirelessly, taking the souls from the river and beating them with hammer upon anvil, fashioning them into the Great Army of Hell, Hellboy’s army.Continued below
At this point Hellboy was getting pretty pissed off, as he often does when people start talking about all the doom and horror he is destined to loose, but the spirit took him to one more place, the home of Azzael, the house where Hellboy was born. Ignoring Hellboy’s protests, the spirit showed him a vision of his own birth, and of Azzael cutting off his hand and fixing the Right Hand of Doom in its place.
But the demon told Hellboy that Satan was dead. Someone had gone down into his chamber while he slept and cut his throat.
This realisation set Hellboy adrift in the Abyss, and he might have been lost had not Sir Edward Grey intervened again and saved him. Grey warned him, he was unlikely to be able to do this again. When Hellboy expressed to Grey his concern that he had no memory of killing Satan, Sir Edward replied simply that it was likely he didn’t want to remember, and that perhaps this was for the best. He pointed out to Hellboy that for the first time in his life, he was truly free, and though he still had his stone hand, there was no one left in Hell that wanted it.
Not only did they learn what meal was awaiting Dulot, but they heard how the princes and dukes and earls and knights of Hell had fled Pandemonium with their armies. But when they came to the mountains, their armies turned on them, killing them and devouring their remains. Now Hell was truly left to the demon slaves.
After Hellboy had seen Dulot safely on his way to meet the devil to win back his soul, Dulot’s two dead soldier friends asked if they could join Hellboy for a while.
That’s right, Hellboy’s drinking again because finally he’s not hiding from anything anymore. He is free, and what he does next will be up to him…
In an interview leading up to Hellboy Day, Mike Mignola spoke to Pop Culture Hound about Hellboy’s future:
What I really want to do with Hellboy… I realise I have a certain number of things he’s got to do. And for years now I’ve had this laundry list; he’s gotta take care of this, he’s gotta take care of that, he’s gotta show up here to do this; and I’d like to get through that in the next five years.
In Hellboy in Hell I was supposed to take care of everything I wanted to take care of in the first couple of issues and then turn that book into a book where Hellboy just wandered around different neighbourhoods of Hell … But what happened in those first couple of issues of Hellboy in Hell, things happened that kind of started having certain repercussions, which has turned into a big story. So what I’m looking at now is at least twenty issues which have to resolve this big Hellboy story. it doesn’t mean I’m done with Hellboy, it just means he will have done what he needed to do, and now I can kind of retire him. Just let him roam around and have a good time…. in Hell.
Five years is a big canvas for these events to unfold in. After all B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth can’t go on forever. Look how much material we’re already accumulated in less than four years of this story. In another five years time, it will almost certainly be over. Plague of Frogs ran for twelve trades, and though Hell on Earth is going to be a longer story cycle, it’s already at nine trades-worth of material. By Hellboy’s 25th anniversary, the Earth may be gone, and the Hellboy universe will be a very different place than it is today.
There have been many prophecies in the Hellboy series, but when they play out, they very rarely happen the way it was expected. Mignola plays with our assumptions, and it’s a game I rather enjoy.
It is still said that Hellboy will take up his father’s sword, wake up his sleeping army of the damned, and break down the walls of Hell. Indeed, Igor Bromhead even saw Hellboy at the head of his army on the back of a dragon as he died and went to Hell. Perhaps one day we shall see the damned with Bromhead witnessing this event in the background. In fact, given the way he lived his life, he may even be among the ranks of the common damned, beaten by the Fisher of Souls into a warrior.
Context is everything, and while at the moment it seems Hellboy would never do such things, we don’t know what motivation is driving him, and what this army is truly going up against. And we’re still yet to see Hellboy have to make the better of two bad choices. So far he’s always found a way out, but I don’t think this will always be the case.
And then there’s Liz’s vision from B.P.R.D.: King of Fear. Hellboy and Hecate together at the end of the world, and just as Astaroth told him as a child, he sets the world on fire with a word.
And then…? Well, we’ve been teased in various images, not visions of the future, but more illustrations a certain character’s perception of the future. They are not literal. They are maybes.
In the end Hecate and Hellboy will be together, and the Ogdru Jahad will be loose. In these illustrations of the future, Hellboy’s Right Hand has often been taken, cut off, and used by another. And though he does die, this does not necessarily mean Hellboy dies right at that moment. The hand must be struck off while Hellboy lives, so maybe that is just one step on his journey and not so close to the end as we might think. Maybe we’ll have a one-eyed, one-armed Hellboy for a while.Continued below
And then there’s those that are tied in with his fate. Sir Edward did this despite repeated warnings. He will be damned and suffer as few men have ever suffered, and he will learn to do evil to accomplish good. I wonder if this is the task he is sparing Hellboy, or if this is a burden they shall both endure together. Or maybe it has nothing to do with Hellboy. We shall see.
Both Hellboy and Hecate are Heaven, Hell, and Earth combined. It has been pointed out numerous times since Wake the Devil. Why this is important, I can only guess, but it is clearly very significant.
Yeah, it’s pretty weak as far as theories go, I know. but I guess we’ll get the answer before the end. Because it is going to end one day. This thing isn’t going to keep on spinning forever. It’s going somewhere. Scott Allie spoke a little about it in his interview with 13th Dimension: “I don’t think anyone has ever built or managed anything like what Mike’s done with these books. And there’ll come a day when we end it, and then we’ll have really done something unprecedented.”
The thing is there’s so much history to explore. I hope you’ve been enjoying Hellboy’s drunken tales from Mexico, because there’s more to come. Remember after Hellboy was killed for the first time on that island off the coast of Portugal, and afterwards he hoped on a little boat to England? Do you remember this story?
Neither do I, because we never got told that story, but it was still hinted at in The Storm. And some day, we might get that ghost ship story.
Before that Hellboy spent a bunch of time in Africa. In fact, before The Third Wish came together, there was originally supposed to be a miniseries there. Maybe some day we’ll explore that. Or even explore his previous visit to Africa in 1947 as a child, lost on the Serengeti.
We have had twenty years of Hellboy, and yet there’s still such a rich history to explore. And that’s really saying something considering it’s taken me three long articles to sum up his history, all the while glossing over things and truncating explanations along the way to keep the length down. Hell, do you know how much more history I could have gone into between 1956 and 1994? I actually skipped a majority of the stories from that era just to save space.
So where does Hellboy go from here? Wherever the hell Mike Mignola wants. It’s a big universe, and even after twenty years it’s still bustling with stories, all begging to be told.
Whew! This was exhausting! I hope you’ve enjoyed 31 Days of Hellboy. Again, I gotta thank Daniel Chabon for his help on this column. Without him, these articles would be accompanied by very grainy, low-res pictures. He keeps this thing looking professional.
Hell Notes will return in June, because I need to recover from doing so many mammoth articles back to back since December. In the meantime, feel free to use the comments to talk about Hellboy’s future. Honestly, there’s so much there, I’m bound to have overlooked stuff, and I’m sure you guys guys have some very compelling theories of your own.